Silent Night, Deadly Night is a 1984 slasher film directed by Charles E. Sellier Jr. and starring Robert Brian Wilson, Lilyan Chauvin, Gilmer McCormick, Toni Nero, Britt Leach and Leo Geter. It focuses on a young boy who, after witnessing his parents' murder at the hands of a man clad in a Santa suit on Christmas, grows up tumultuously in a Catholic orphanage and slowly emerges into a spree killer himself. The film caused an uproar when released in 1984 during the holiday season, and has since developed a devoted cult following.
On December 1971, Billy Chapman, a little boy, goes with his parents and younger brother Ricky to see their grandfather at a mental hospital. Billy's grandfather is sitting there in a catatonic state, when the parents go off to review Grandpa's records with the doctor, leaving him alone with Billy. Grandpa starts talking to Billy, and tells him the frightening truth about Santa Claus: Santa Claus not only gives presents to the good boys and girls, but punishes the naughty ones. As soon as the parents return, Grandpa goes back into his catatonic state. Afterwards, the family leave the mental hospital.
Not far away, a man in a Santa Claus suit goes to a convenience store and robs the place at gun point. He kills the clerk and runs out of the store. Later that night, the Chapman family are on their way home and they see the same man in the Santa suit, pulled over at the side of the road. They ask him if he needs help, but he pulls out a gun. Billy's dad puts the car in reverse and tries to get away, but the man still manages to shoot him. Billy gets out of the car and hides. When he sees the killer try to rape his mother, he bring down his look. The mother resists and he slits her throat. When Billy looks up, the killer is gone.
Three years pass, and Billy and his brother are living at St. Mary's Orphanage. Billy is in class, and the kids have been assigned to draw Christmas pictures. When Billy shows his drawing of a bloody Santa Claus and a decapitated reindeer, the teacher sends Billy to Mother Superior. She sees the drawing and sends Billy to his room as punishment. Sister Margaret, a sympathetic nun, can see that Billy still is haunted by his parents' deaths. Mother Superior does not care what Sister Margaret thinks, and tells Margaret that she will take care of Billy personally. Later on, Sister Margaret lets Billy come outside to play. As Billy leaves his room, he hears the noise of a couple making love. Mother Superior sees it and beats them with a belt. She comes out and is mad at Billy for leaving his room. She tells Billy that "Punishment is necessary, punishment is good," then sends Billy to his room and beats him with a belt. Later on that night, Billy has nightmares and runs out of his room, only to be caught by Mother Superior, who then ties him to his bed. In the morning, when the kids line up to sit on Santa Claus's lap, Billy is forced to join in, but he wiggles away and punches the fake Santa and runs to his room, scared as Mother Superior comes in.
It is now 1984. Billy is now 18 years old and Sister Margaret is trying to help him get a job at Ira's Toy Store. He meets Mr. Simms, the store owner, who hires Billy. Things go well until Christmas comes around. Billy's co-worker named Andy, starts yelling at him for no apparent reason and he claims Billy was an alright kid at first, but now he is giving him attitude, snapping at him and staring off into space. Billy has a crush on his female co-worker named Pamela, and has a dream about making love to her, but being stabbed for his acts. Billy gets scared when he sees the store Santa after he had gotten yelled at again by Andy. The next day, Billy is asked to play Santa Claus because one of his fellow employees was injured. A little girl gets scared on Billy's lap as he is Santa, but Billy says stop it, she is being naughty, he does not bring presents to naughty children and he punishes them severely. Sister Margarent calls the store and asks how Billy is doing and when she is told about him being the Santa, she hangs the phone up and has a scared look. Later that night, when the employees are celebrating, Andy takes Pamela back to the stock room. When Billy goes back to the room a few minutes later and sees Andy attempt to rape Pamela, he has flashbacks of his parents. Billy snaps, realizes that he has the power to punish, since he is now Santa Claus, then says "Naughty!" and hangs Andy by the Christmas lights. Pamela becomes upset and starts yelling at Billy, who gets the box cutter on the shelf and stabs Pamela saying "Punishment is necessary Pamela, Punishment is good." Mr. Simms hears the noise in back and checks it out, thinking he is hallucinating in his intoxication. When he turns around, he is hit in the head with a hammer. The assistant manager, Mrs. Randall, sees the lights turned off and goes to look for Mr. Simms in the stock room. When she sees his corpse, she becomes hysterical and tries to call the police, but someone cuts the phone line. She sees Billy with an axe in his hand and tries to hide. When Billy comes closer, she knocks him down and tries to escape by breaking the window glass with the axe. Billy picks up a bow and arrow and kills her. Having killed everyone in the store, Billy leaves to go punish the "naughty people". When Sister Margaret comes to pick up Billy, she sees Mrs. Randall's corpse and screams.
Later, Billy sees two teenagers making love. The girl, Denise, hears something upstairs. Thinking the cat wants to come in, she opens the door. The cat comes in, but she sees that Billy is there as well. He shouts "Punish!", then impales her on the antlers of an antelope head hanging on the wall. Denise's boyfriend, Tommy, goes to look for her and sees her hanging on the wall, bleeding. Tommy tries to call the police, but Billy stops him and throws him out the window. Cindy, Denise's sister, sees Billy on the street in his Santa Claus outfit. He asks Cindy if she has been naughty or nice. When Cindy says that she has been good, Billy kindly gives her the box cutter he used to kill Pamela as a Christmas present, then leaves. The police are on the look out for Santa and nearly shoot a dad dressed as Santa going in his daughter's window. Billy goes through the forest as he hears police sirens.
Later on, two kids going sledding are attacked by Bob and Mac the bullies. Mac slides down the hill, telling Bob to join him, when Billy chops the his head off. Mac watches as his friend's head and body roll down the hill separately and then screams when they stop. On Christmas morning, Sister Margaret is at the police station. Captain Richards, tells her there have been three more murders. Margaret tells the captain that there is an order to the killings, and then realizes that Billy is the killer. Sister Margaret understands there is a connection after what he has been through during his childhood and the officer thinks Billy is insane, but not stupid. She quickly deduces that his next attack will be at the orphanage.
At the orphanage, the children are waiting to see Santa Claus. Mother Superior is in a wheelchair now due to an unknown illness and is now less threatening then before. Mother Superior asks the children to write thank you notes to Santa. The police are looking for Santa and are ordered to shoot and kill if necessary. A man in a Santa suit walks up to the orphanage. Officer Barnes arrives just in time to tell the man to stop. He ignores Barnes and keeps walking toward the orphanage, when the cop shoots him, the kids panic and Ricky becomes shocked when the man's blood spatters over his face. The Captain and Sister Margaret think it is over till the dispatcher tells them the report is all wrong. Sister Margaret realizes too late that the police shot Father O'Brien. He did not stop because he was deaf, not because he was the killer. Officer Barnes, who shot the priest, unsuccessfully attempts to explain what happened to Mother Superior. She becomes angry at what happened and leaves. Barnes walks off to search the grounds.
When he sees an open door that leads to the basement, he goes down to look and finds nothing. However, when he gets back to the door, he hears "Punish!", Billy steps around the corner and slams his axe into Barnes' stomach. Billy starts walking toward the orphanage, and one of the kids sees him and lets him in against Mother Superior's orders to keep him out, since she knows Billy will kill her as revenge for abusing him. Billy is about to kill Mother Superior, when she try to reason with Billy by telling him "There is no Santa Claus." Billy frowns, says "Naughty!", and begins to swing his axe, but Captain Richards shoots him just in time to save Mother Superior. Although he killed many people, Sister Margaret is sad to see Billy die. Before he passes, Billy says, "You're safe now... Santa Claus... is gone." Billy's little brother, who watched Billy die, looks down at his dead brother's body, then slowly looks up with a cold stare towards Mother Superior and says, "Naughty!"
Lilyan Chauvin as Mother Superior
Gilmer McCormick as Sister Margaret
Toni Nero as Pamela
Robert Brian Wilson as Billy Chapman (age 18)
Britt Leach as Mr. Sims
Nancy Borgenicht as Mrs. Randall
H.E.D. Redford as Captain Richards
Danny Wagner as Billy Chapman (age 8)
Linnea Quigley as Denise
Leo Geter as Tommy
Randy Stumpf as Andy
Will Hare as Grandpa Chapman
Tara Buckman as Ellie Chapman
Geoff Hansen as Jim Chapman (as Jeff Hansen)
Charles Dierkop as Killer Santa
Eric Hart as Mr. Levitt
Jonathan Best as Billy Chapman (age 5)
A. Madeline Smith as Sister Ellen
Amy Styvesant as Cindy (as Amy stuyvesant)
Max Robinson as Officer Barnes
Controversy and reception
Silent Night, Deadly Night was one of the most controversial films of the 1980s because the killer is dressed as Santa Claus. The PTA fought to have this film removed from theaters due to its subject matter and the fact that it was shown around Christmas, although an earlier film with a similar premise had gone unnoticed.
Upon its original release in 1984, the film created serious controversy. Siskel and Ebert condemned the film and went so far as to read the film's production credits on air, saying "shame, shame" after each one. Leonard Maltin also condemned the film, giving it zero stars and asking: "What's next, the Easter Bunny as a child molester?" Large crowds (mostly angry families) formed at theaters and malls around the nation to protest the film. TriStar Pictures, its original distributor, pulled all ads for the film six days after its release (November 15). The film itself was also withdrawn shortly thereafter due to the controversy.
It was later re-released by an independent distributor, Aquarius Films, beginning in spring 1986, with an ad campaign which replaced the original "Twas the night before Christmas" audio track with a new one that centered on the controversy surrounding the film and edited out all close-up shots of Billy, in the Santa suit, with weapons. The print ad material also replaced the original 'Chimney' picture with one that talked about the controversy.
In United Kingdom, the movie was never submitted for certification by the BBFC. As such, although it had never been actually classified as a Video Nasty, its distribution was prohibited in the UK. However, in 2009, Arrow Films submitted the film to the BBFC for classification, who passed the film uncut with an 18 certificate. The UK DVD was released on 23rd November, 2009.
Its sequel was denied a BBFC certificate in 1987.
The unrated DVD is include Audio interview with director Charles E. Sellier Jr., Poster, Booklet including “Deadly Director: Charles Sellier Interviewed by Calum Waddell” and “Silent Night, Sex Night: The Slice and Times of Linnea Quigley” it was released over Arrow Video. The movie was re-released on 12 December 2009 in the Brattle Theatre as double feature with Black Christmas.
Sequels and remake
The film spawned four sequels. Anchor Bay Entertainment released this film, along with its sequel as a double feature DVD in 2003, which is currently out of print. Anchor Bay Entertainment re-released a new DVD of Silent Night, Deadly Night on December 11, 2007, which as of 2009, has also gone out of print. There are currently no plans to release a new DVD, as of December 16, 2009.
In January 2007, Screen Gems announced plans to remake the film with Alexandre Aja to direct. He will produce and write the script with his partner Grégory Levasseur. The film was purportedly scheduled for a 2008 release. According to IMDB, Shauna Macdonald, who most known for her roles in The Descent, will play Sister Margaret.
The film has been put on hold and as of late November 2009 no news of filming has been announced.
Comparison to Black Christmas
Silent Night, Deadly Night has many similarities to the Bob Clark horror film Black Christmas. For example, both films are set during Christmas time, and both killers are named "Billy". Also, Black Christmas was released in the United States under the title Silent Night, EVIL Night.
1.^ YouTube - Siskel & Ebert At the Movies 1984 Silent Night, Deadly Night
2.^ Unknown. (2006). Going to Pieces: The Rise and Fall of the Slasher Film. [DVD (Region 1)]. United States: THINKfilm.
3.^ BBFC Website - Silent Night, Deadly Night Classfication
4.^ In the UK? Win a Copy of Silent Night, Deadly Night on DVD!
5.^ Boston Residents: Catch a Double Feature of Silent Night, Deadly Night and Black Christmas This Friday!
6.^ SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT III: BETTER WATCH OUT!
7.^ Clint Morris (2007-01-02). "Silent Night, Deadly Remake?". Moviehole.net. http://www.moviehole.net/news/20070102_silent_night_deadly_remake.html.